A year in the life of a school

Week 33: Jubilant Jubilee! A Week Of Interviews, Tea Parties And One Heck Of An Outfit…

In the thirty-third of an ongoing series of blogs for the 2021-2022 academic year, Executive Headteacher Max Kelly captures his time working in primary schools in the Isle of Man. As the year goes on he hopes his blogs will paint a picture of a “Year In The Life Of A School”….

A short three-day working week wrapped up an intense half-term. Monday and Tuesday were normal contact days with the children, Wednesday was a staff in-service day whilst Thursday AND Friday were bank holidays: the Thursday holiday being the rescheduled May Bank Holiday that would traditionally fall on the last Monday in May, but this year was moved so that it adjoined the one-off extra Bank Holiday for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee which was planned for the the first Friday in June, thus giving everyone in the Isle of Man a four-day weekend in the run up to TT week – a week of motorbike madness in the island, and one which coincides with the Manx half-term.

I confess to writing this blog at the tail-end of the TT week break, and as I reflect on those final three days which closed last half-term, I begin to look ahead to the new half-term which will take us up to the end of this academic year…

Monday 30th May 2022

Our Year Five teacher at Laxey School was successful in applying for a promoted post and will take up an assistant headteacher position in September. Although I’m really proud of the Federation’s track record in helping colleagues achieve promotion (in my time as executive headteacher, one colleague has gone on to headship, two have gone into assistant headship, three have gone into deputy headship and several have picked up TLR positions) it does mean that recruitment is an almost continual process.

Today I am chairing the interview panel for the Y5 teacher position that Mr Clague’s promotion will create. Somehow we’ve whittled down a large field of strong candidates to a group of three and I’m into Laxey bright and early to prepare the final details. Each candidate has been asked to prepare a brief 30 minute “lesson” which I will observe them deliver to the class. This will then be followed by a formal interview.

The whole process takes up the bulk of the day but by 4.30pm the panel and I have settled on our preferred candidate and I put in a call to offer the role to them. I’m delighted when they accept, and my team for the new academic year is finally in place. Technically, tomorrow is the deadline for staff resignations to affect September… but I haven’t got even so much as an inkling that anyone else is intending on not being around for September.

Tuesday 31st May 2022

A busy day is planned across both schools in the Federation as we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

I start the day very early at Dhoon School. I have to drop off the bread, fillings, biscuits, crisps and drinks for our Jubilee tea-party. Our kitchen staff have kindly agreed to make the food up, and I hope that I’ve bought the right amount of stuff. I needed specific instructions and spent an hour or so in Tesco last night making sure I got everything from the list. So my fault and my fault alone if there is a shortage of ingredients!! (Actually, Steph came with me too so I can always blame her if need be.) I’m in so early that no-one else is here, so I lock up again on my way out and head to Laxey with another box load of food.

I start the day for real at Laxey School, dressed in full patriotic colours. The Queen is actually the “Lord of Mann” in the Isle of Man as we are not part of the United Kingdom, but the Union Jack feels more appropriate than Manx Flags today.

All set for Jubilee Day at Laxey School and Dhoon School. Not everyone can carry this look as effectively as this.

The Manx Government have given a Jubilee coin to every primary pupil in the Isle of Man, and I have commissioned a pin badge from my schools for the pupils so that they have a couple of commemorative gifts to mark the occasion. I begin visiting each class at Laxey School to make the presentations and it’s lovely to spend some time with all of the children.

At playtime I gather as many of the staff as I can find to come and don a Royal Family face mask and we have a bit of fun out on the playground with the children.

After playtime I jump in the car and dash up to Dhoon School where my first job is to visit the classes and make the coin / badge presentations. Following this, I round up the staff and we put on some Royal Family face masks and circulate in the dining room whilst the children queue up for their lunch. It’s just a bit of fun, but adds some jollity to the day.

The Royal Family pay a visit to Laxey School!
The Royal Family pay a visit to Dhoon School!

I head back to Laxey School to help set up the dining room for the Jubilee Tea Party. We have an hour between the end of lunch service and the first tranche of children arriving for the tea party, so we need to work fast to get everything ready. Once everything is good to go, I stay to see the first part of the party – the children love it and arrive wearing Jubilee crowns – I drive back up to Dhoon to make sure I can be part of their Jubilee Tea Party too.

For sure, the hardest thing about running two separate schools is making sure I can be a presence at both. And on special days like this, I need to balance my time between the two sites and in accordance with the schedule of events. I couldn’t just do a morning on one site and an afternoon on the other because that would mean missing the presentations for one school and the tea party for the other. My only option really is to make mad dashes between the two sites. It’s doable – just – but I’m shattered by the end of the day.

Executive Headship: You Can’t Be In Two Places At Once!

I had the good foresight to complete the newsletters at home last night, so they are printed and sent home with the children, and I update our website and socials before waving the children home. We’ll see them again next half-term.

I finish my day by putting together the new starter packs which we mail out to our new families who start with us in September. We have an updated prospectus fresh from the printers, letters, leaflets, guides and forms. It all needs to be enveloped and prepared for posting. It’s a job that takes an hour or so.

Just before I head home, I print out the agenda and my notes for tomorrow’s staff in-service day and make sure I’m fully prepared and organised.

A walk-through our “Jubilee Corridor” at Laxey School.

It’s been a great day – but busy and long! I switch off the lights just after 7pm before heading home.

Wednesday 1st June

I arrive at Laxey School to set up for INSET day. I’ve allowed my staff to work in their own site today, rather than gather everyone physically in the one school, so we have colleagues working in both Laxey School and Dhoon School today. We’ve become much more proficient using tech to link us up, so our first couple of collaborative meetings are conducted through Zoom.

I start the day with a meeting with all colleagues to outline some key updates and share some upcoming dates with the team.

This is followed by a meeting with Gill from Cornerstones, again via Zoom, where we spend some considerable time looking at our new curriculum and online platform called Maestro. The platform looks fantastic: it’s linked to the NC, allows for mixed age and single age coverage, contains an inexhaustible array of projects and starting points, has lesson plans and resources and encourages schools to craft a bespoke approach to content and coverage. There is no doubt it will take some time to train ourselves up in using the system and getting the most out of it, but from September we will have a truly consistent curriculum across both schools – and that is the first time I have been able to say this since taking over as Head of both.

The staff looked at our new Cornerstones Curriculum during the morning on INSET Day. We can’t wait to start using it across our Federation.

After a short break, we’re back on Zoom for safeguarding training led by one of my Heads of School before splitting into site specific “best practice” meetings: at Laxey we hear from one of my KS1 teachers about highlighting success criteria with children and at Dhoon we discuss SEN files.

We have lunch and the final hour or so of the day is given to colleagues to work in their own classrooms on reports, data, and anything else they need time to complete.

I use the time to catch up with my Head of School at Dhoon. The recent industrial action is definitely being felt more acutely at Dhoon, and we discuss that as well as starting to formalise some plans for staffing and class structures for September.

I finish my day, and my half-term, with some social media and website updates. My final job is to post the new starter packs which I do on my way home.

It has been a incredible half-term: residentials, conferences, sport events, federation events, This Is Me week… and Jubilee Day. The staff team have, as always, done a phenomenal job and richly deserve these two bank holidays and a half-term break. I am proud to be their leader and to work alongside them in this federation.

They say it’s always beer-o-clock somewhere. In Max’s world, that time is now. TT 2022 beckons!

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